Daniel Greenfield, a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the Freedom Center, is an investigative journalist and writer focusing on the radical left and Islamic terrorism.
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion…”
The First Amendment assumes that the proper sphere of government is policies, not values. And so it protects the right of political participation and prohibits a state church that would define values.
The government had the right to decide to go to war with France. It did not have a right to decide what you should believe. Politics extended into the realm of policies, not beliefs.
But as religious belief declined, politics replaced it as the repository of moral and ethical values. This transformation began on the left. The left was the least religious in the traditional sense. And the most likely to build up an ideology of secular values with which to displace traditional religious values.
The last century witnessed an extensive effort to scrub religious values out of government. But this effort was matched by an equally comprehensive project to replace them with the left’s own values. Unlike the wall between church and state, there were few legal safeguards against writing values into legislation if they were irreligious ones. The church was deemed to be the true threat. Not the state.
But the end result looks very much like an establishment of religion. Even in the church sense.
The values written into the legislation reflect those of certain churches, but not others. When nuns are forced to pay for birth control and Christian photographers with traditional beliefs are compelled to participate in gay weddings, the government is picking religious establishment “winners and losers”.
The winners are roughly on the religious left and the losers on the religious right.
Unitarians win, Baptists lose. Quakers win, Mormons lose. The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) triumphs over the Presbyterian Church in America. The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America prevails over the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod. It’s hard not to see this as an establishment of religion.
This isn’t about doctrinal battles or gay marriage. It’s about the culture war fallout from the left’s power to write its values into law and into the codes of conduct that hold sway in in private organizations.
We take the truth of our values on faith. They are a matter of subjective conviction, not objective fact. To those who believe in them, they appear to be the absolute truths of the enlightened. But they cannot be proven to be true in any meaningful way. You either believe in them. Or you don’t.
Google fired James Damore for questioning a tenet of its beliefs. That is in theory illegal. The search engine monopoly created forums in which employees were meant to discuss these very issues. Damore was not fired for expressing his views at work, but for politely expressing the “incorrect” view.
California law protects employees fired for both religious and political views. But the “hostile workplace” pretext that led to Damore’s firing is an example of how the left’s values are the basis of legislation. Much as “public accommodation” civil rights protect the demand to participate rather than the right of religious dissent, the protection of minority participation is at the heart of the left’s bid for equality. But this has never truly been a matter of law, but of values. The law mandates the elimination of obstacles. It does not demand that values winners and losers be chosen to achieve equality. That is a leftist bias.
The left defends imposing its values by force through outrage at selective “suffering” on the one hand and abstractions about the empowerment of participatory equality on the other. Ultimately though it cannot defend its values without reference to those values. That is typical of belief systems.
The left’s secular religion functions as a theocracy. It promises salvation through Socialism, warns that human sin will destroy the world through global warming and is engaged in a perpetual struggle against those who do not share its values. It wages war on religious freedom because it is a kind of religion.
There can be no political freedom where there is no religious freedom. Religion is more encompassing than politics can ever be. Politics addresses which policy best accomplishes a particular goal. Religion tackles the question of what the goal should be. If you don’t have the freedom to determine your own goals, then your ability to choose policies is as meaningless as some European elections.
Leftist systems seek to create “democratic” arenas in which we are free to disagree on policies, but not goals. They do this by writing values into the system so that only one sort of goal is deemed acceptable.
Deviations from the goal are not acceptable. Questioning the goal is heresy. And leads to sanctions.
Trump Derangement Syndrome, Google’s firing of James Damore and the violent attacks on conservative speakers are all examples of what happens when the goals are blasphemously challenged.
Politics is far more likely to turn violent over values rather than policy. That is why the Founders wanted politics to be confined to policy rather than values. We can rationally debate policy, but we can’t debate values. We can argue over what we feel to be true, but the revelations of our deepest selves cannot be proven. And when they are challenged, anger, hostility and even violence quickly follow.
The First Amendment helped build a system where our representatives debated what we should do, rather than what we should think. Politicians were meant to get things done, not argue dogma. The culture war we are in is less about what we should do than what we should think. The violent confrontations and clashes are not really about campus safe spaces or Confederate memorials, but how we should see ourselves. The confrontations are meant to be both polarizing and clarifying.
They’re a religious war. The left has established its religion. And violence against heretics swiftly follows.
America is in the midst of an ugly conflict because our political system was hijacked by the Church of the Left. The legislative and judicial hijacking of our system has turned our politics into a culture war. To end the conflict we must return to a true understanding of the First Amendment. It is not the role of government to tell us what to think or what to believe. And any government that embarks on such a totalitarian enterprise will tear apart our society and destroy our way of life.
As the left has been doing.
Restoring the Constitution and ending the violence will require unwriting the left’s values from our laws.
A common but mistaken reading of the current strategic situation in the Middle East presents the region as approaching the end of a period of instability. The “return of the Arab state” is one of the more arresting refrains that this perspective has produced.
According to this view, the wars in Syria and in Iraq are drawing to a close. The defeat of the Islamic State in these countries represents the eclipse of the political ambitions of Salafi jihadi Islamism for the foreseeable future. Assad is set to restore his repressive but stable rule in Syria. In Iraq, the firm reaction by the government of Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi to the Kurdish bid for independence has ended prospects of the imminent fragmentation of the country. In Lebanon, attempts by Sunni jihadis to export the Syrian war have failed, and all is quiet.
In July 2016, Pope Tawadros II of Alexandria (pictured in front at center)—the leader of Egypt’s Coptic Orthodox Church—hosts Ignatius Aphrem II (left), patriarch of Antioch and All East of the Syriac Orthodox Church, and Aram I, head of Lebanon’s Catholicosate of the Great House of Cilicia of the Armenian Apostolic Church. Credit: Wikimedia Commons.
While Christianity traces its birthplace to the Middle East, that region has been arguably the most hostile area for the religion in recent years. A new report by the Christian charity group Open Doors has found that most of Israel’s neighbors, including Egypt, Jordan, Syria and the Palestinian territories, are among the world’s most dangerous places for Christians.
Kingdom says Jerusalem agreed to pay compensation over deaths of three people, in order to end diplomatic standoff
Jordanian protesters wave national flags and chant slogans during a demonstration near the Israeli embassy in the capital Amman on July 28, 2017, calling for the shutting down the of the embassy, expelling the ambassador, and canceling the 1994 peace treaty with Israel. (AFP PHOTO / KHALIL MAZRAAWI)
Israel is paying $5 million in compensation to the families of two people shot dead by an Israeli embassy guard last year, as well as a Jordanian judge killed in a 2014 incident, diplomats in Jordan told the al-Rai newspaper Saturday.
Ultra-Orthodox women and children attend a ceremony to welcome new Torah scrolls in a neighborhood of Jerusalem, Oct. 1 2014.
Reuven K., who is about 30 years old, is an ultra-Orthodox Hasidic man who lives in Betar Illit, one of Israel’s most prominent ultra-Orthodox localities. Reuven studies in a yeshiva, a Jewish school for Talmudic learning, but works half of each day as a wholesale merchant selling religious ritual supplies. His wife, Bracha, works as a bookkeeper in a governmental institution.
Palestinian boss Mahmoud Abbas recently declared that Israel is “a colonial enterprise that has nothing to do with Jewishness.” Moses, King David and thousands of years of Jewish history would disagree. Israel and the Jews are part of the story of human civilization. Over 50% of the human race has a holy book that tells of the Jewish journey to Israel. That includes Mohammed’s own copy of the Koran.
Israel isn’t a “colonial enterprise.” Palestine is.
Anyone who wants to find out where the name Israel comes from can open the Book of Genesis 32:29. The story even appears in Islamic hadiths. But where does “Palestine” really come from?
It may not be a shooting war. For the most part. (Though don’t tell that to some Republicans at a charity game practice who were targeted by a Bernie Sanders supporter.) But it’s a war all the same.
The war is still being fought with paper and protests. But it’s based on irreconcilable differences between parts of the country. Much like the ones that brought on the war between brothers.
This is a topic that I’ve written about quite often over this past year. Rush Limbaugh saw fit to read and promote some of those pieces. And now I’ll be giving a talk on the subject at the South Carolina Tea Party Coalition Conference in Myrtle Beach, SC. It’ll take place from Jan 20-22. I’m scheduled to speak on the 21st, but there are plenty of other great speakers there.
The speech was loud and clear. It wasn’t just the “may your house be demolished” curse that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas fired at the leader of the strongest world power. It was the utterly delusional ideology, with false claims that only make the Palestinians sink deeper into a path of delusions and collapse.
The reactions were predictable: We have to understand him. He’s under a lot of pressure. He has no political horizon. The Palestinians are desperate. He didn’t really mean it.
A document drafted by members of the global Christian community convening at the 3rd International Christian Forum held in Moscow, detailed how over the past 10 years the Middle East’s Christian population has shrunk by 80 percent and warned that unless current trends are reversed Christianity “will vanish” from its ancient homelands in a few years’ time. Around the year 2000, there were 1.5 million Christians in Iraq, whereas today there are only 100,000, roughly a 93 percent drop, the document notes. In Syria, the largest cities “have lost almost all of their Christian population.”
Mahmoud Abbas, chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization, has delivered a speech triggered by his rage at the President of the United States Donald Trump, going so far as to hurl the most bitter curse in the Arabic language at the POTUS: “May your house be destroyed.”
This imprecation does not merely relate to someone’s present home, but to all the members of his family being thrown into the street to lead lives of destitution, humiliation, and shame. Only someone familiar with Middle Eastern culture understands the real significance of this curse.
The 1964 presidential election was the second in which I voted. Lyndon Johnson who had succeeded John Kennedy was running against Barry Goldwater. I didn’t like either candidate: Johnson’s personal characteristics were obnoxious, though he had achieved much, especially in the area of civil rights; Goldwater’s personal characterizes seemed fine, but I disapproved of his conservative political views.
I was shocked to read an article in Fact magazine, based on interviews with more than 1,000 psychiatrists, which concluded that Goldwater was mentally unstable and psychologically unfit to be president. It was Lyndon Johnson whose personal fitness to hold the highest office I questioned. Barry Goldwater seemed emotionally stable with excellent personal characteristics, but highly questionable politics. The article was utterly unpersuasive, and in the end, I reluctantly voted for Lyndon Johnson. Barry Goldwater went back to the Senate, where he served with great distinction and high personal morality. Lyndon Johnson got us deeply into an unwinnable war that hurt our nation. The more than 1,000 psychiatrists, it turned out, were dead wrong in their diagnosis and predictions.